Review: The Walk (2015)


Last week, I just went to the cinema without a plan on what movie to watch. So I really have no idea about this movie until I saw the poster while buying tickets. So what is The Walk about? The Walk (2015) is a biographical drama film based on the story of the French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. I learned that there is already a documentary film about this walk, Man on Wire (2008), based on the memoir To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit, the same book where The Walk is based. So why, after only 7 years, did they make this movie? Because director Robert Zemeckis wants us to feel and experience that we are right up there with Petit. That’s why they released this early in 3D, hoping the cinema-goers will feel a sense of vertigo especially in IMAX. I didn’t know that prior to viewing this film, so enough of that, I didn’t watch it in 3D.

The movie started with Philippe Petit narrating atop the torch of the statue of Liberty. He is talking to us then alternately doing voice-overs during the scenes. I didn’t really like this approach. Sometimes, it seems that a lot of the voice-overs are unnecessary since we are already watching what’s happening on screen. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Parisian French accent is also kind of distracting at first. Maybe because I’m not used to him speaking like that but eventually, I warmed up and praise JGL in this. It is said that he perfected this accent with the help of Charlotte Le Bon who plays Annie Allix, Petit’s girlfriend in this movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a great performance. He said that he was trained by Philippe Petit and already able to walk on the wire by himself after 8 days. He portrayed well the exuberance of Philippe Petit. His charm and showmanship made us believe the things that Petit wanted to achieve.

The movie showed us how Philippe Petit was inspired by the circus to wire walk since he was a boy. He also became a street performer in Paris. Juggling, riding a unicycle and wire walking until he was kicked out of their house by his father. Then he saw a picture of the Twin Towers in a magazine, which became the beginning of a dream. A dream that is beautiful but dangerous and insane. That if you lose your concentration and your balance, you could die. Petit knew it, admitting that he’s mad. But it was never done before, convincing him all the more to do it. And what’s equally difficult and insane is that he had to do it illegally and as a surprise.

People ask me “Why do you risk death?”. For me, this is life.

Along the storyline, he met Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) who became his mentor. He’s the one who taught him techniques in wire walking and rigging. He gathered his “accomplices” to achieve his dream. They helped him in planning how to set up the wire in the Twin Towers which in that year were not yet finished. And they were there with him in the towers, assisting and supporting him until the end. I think these represent that one’s goals can’t be achieved without the help of others.

I enjoyed watching the spy work Petit did before the walk. The scouting of the location with his disguises are entertaining. And the events that happened the day before of his “artistic coup” were so intense. It was a heist-like operation. Although everybody knew that he’s going to succeed in his walk, the viewers were all focused during the process. I can feel that everyone was nervous and, at the same time, rooting for all of them to succeed.

Obviously, the highlight of the film is the walk. At first, all of us in the cinema were quiet. It’s as if we were really up there too with Petit and holding our breath. I can say that the cinematography is amazing. The film achieved its goal for the viewers to experience the terrifying but awe-inspiring walk. After sometime, the audience became audible. Almost everyone reacted while Petit did his stunts on the wire. I was tensed during those scenes not really because of any fear of heights or vertigo (but one of my friends said that he felt colder during the walk) but in thinking that Petit actually did it! Philippe Petit is totally insane! Now I wonder how I would have felt if I watched it in IMAX 3D.

This movie taught us to dream big. It showed us, as Petit said, the “intense joy and profound satisfaction” he felt after achieving his dream. His walk showed the world that everything is possible. The movie also made me think about what happened to those towers, what Petit might have felt then after the 9/11 attacks. It was nice seeing them again on screen, reminding us of their grand height and beauty.

If you want to take The Walk, you may want to try it in IMAX 3D. And for those like me who haven’t watched the documentary Man on Wire yet, maybe now is the right time to do so.

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